Princeton council members wrapped up 2020 discussing and fine-tuning a job description for a new city administrator.
Changes to the city’s organizational chart were also approved, creating friction during a Dec. 29 special planning meeting.
Former City Administrator Robert Barbian resigned effective Dec. 22, after city leaders conducted a closed meeting that lasted almost 3 ½ hours.
Barbian said after the closed session he was leaving city employment to explore other interested.
The agenda for the Tuesday meeting, the last for Mayor Brad Schumacher and Councilor Jack Edmonds, included a review of materials gathered by Councilor Jenny Gerold, who said she spent most of the day going through an existing job description.
City Attorney Damien Toven also submitted a suggested job description.
Gerold presented additional ideas culled from the League of Minnesota Cities website.
“I took four of them and pulled out parts and pieces that I liked,” Gerold said. “I think those fit our city administrator position the best. I recreated and rewrote a job description, pulling some different pieces from each one.”
Gerold passed out a reworked description before the meeting started.
“This is my recommendation of what we should use,” she added.
Schumacher was the first to confirm that he had reviewed the revised job description. He thanked Toven for his input and thanked Gerold for her efforts.
“This new job description gets us where we need to be in 2021,” Schumacher added. Toven recommended the council approve the revised job description.
Reynolds returned to the draft organizational chart. He again stated that the org chart should be included in any discussion or approval of the job description.
“One thing that’s I’ve seen on the League of Minnesota Cities website, and in other cities, and previously here, is that the wastewater treatment [plant manager] position actually falls under public works,” Reynolds said. “To me, it would make more sense, and Public Works [Director Bob Gerold] would have more ability to supervise wastewater treatment than a new city administrator.”
Councilor Gerold agreed with Reynolds. She said other cities have wastewater treatment and sewer within public works.
She added in terms of structure, in the city of Princeton, the wastewater position was organized that way for many years.
“It got changed about three years go,” Gerold said. “I think it’s time to put it back where it belongs. It’s all kind of tied together.”
Schumacher then suggested that the city’s airport manager position be placed under public works as well. “That would be the way it used to be as well,” he stated.
Councilor Jack Edmonds reminded the council it was short a member because Councilor Jules Zimmer was on vacation and wasn’t attending remotely via a Zoom connection.
“He’s going to be on the next city council,” Edmonds said, referencing that fact he and Schumacher would be leaving office. “I don’t think we should even act on it.”
Furthermore, Edmonds added that moving the wastewater treatment manager position back under Public Works should be a decision for the new city council.
“Councilor Zimmer is not here,” Edmonds reiterated. “It’s a pretty big step.” Reynolds disagreed.
He said changing the job description represented the perfect time to make such a move because it would make the city administrator job description more accurate.
Edmonds said he would vote against the move.
“The city administrator runs the whole city,” he said. “To me, this move has no effect whatsoever on the job description.”
However, Edmonds said he would move to support the revised city manager job description, not the org chart.
Edmonds’ motion was seconded by Gerold, who added a friendly amendment the description would be subject to city attorney review. That passed 4-0.
During additional discussion, Edmonds again suggested the new council look at the placement of the wastewater treatment manager position.
“I would recommend that the organizational chart not even be acted up until the new council is seated,” Edmonds said.
Reynolds said that “99%” of the time, wastewater was included under public works in a city’s organizational chart. Council members approved the revised org chart 3-1. Edmonds cast a no vote.
The salary range for the city administrator position is $90,255 to $112,815.
Toven said the job listing reviewed and approved by the council Dec. 29 was clear in its indication of the type of person the city wanted as its new administrator.
Toven told the council that he wanted to review the description of additional accuracy.
Gerold suggested positing the job description on the League of Minnesota Cities website, the Minnesota City-County Management Association website, and nearby state websites.
The LMC would help the city with outstate listings.
“I would also suggest we post on Indeed, because we’ve been posting a lot of our positions there,” Gerold said. Indeed is a worldwide employment website.
Council members agreed with Gerold’s recommendation.
Reynolds added posting to job websites would cost much less than hiring a professional search firm. “It would cost $15,000 to $20,000 to hire someone to help us,” Gerold added.
Schumacher and Edmonds concurred regarding the cost savings.
The council voted 4-0 to post the job description to the four locations mentioned by Gerold.
Council members also discussed the possibility of hiring an interim administrator.
Gerold said she reached out to the LMC’s human relations department for help.
The LMC provided a list of retired or consultancy-based administrators or managers who might be able to work in Princeton until the position is filled.
“We could decide whether or not we wanted to reach out to these people and see what the cost would be, or we could just go with the flow and hope we find someone quickly,” Gerold said. “I don’t have any idea how much this would cost.”
Schumacher said the LCM-supplied list included 19 possible candidates.
“If this is something the council wants to pursue, clearly, reaching out to them sooner as opposed to later would be helpful,” he said.
Edmonds asked if Former Finance Director Steve Jackson might be interested in a support role.
“I don’t think going through the whole process of trying to get a temporary administrator is worth it when we have ample and qualified department heads,” Edmonds said.
Schumacher said he asked Jackson about taking on such a role with the city.
“Steve said he isn’t going to be interested in putting together a hiring committee for a new city administrator, because his biggest priority is working with [New Finance Director Tracy Peters,” Schumacher explained. “He wants to make sure that she’s caught up in that department. He said that was going to be his focus.”
Council members decided to contact the following interim candidates from the LMC’s list to learn more about costs and possible advisory availability, as opposed to a part-time role: Jerry Bohnsack, Deerwood; Joel Dhein, Mora; Susan Hall, Shoreview; Jim Brimeyer, St. Louis Park, and Shirley Schulte, no address.
Schumacher said he worked with City Clerk Shawna Jenkins to develop a new city administrator hiring schedule.
Gerold said that a prospective city administrator candidate would need to give 14 days to 30 days notice regarding their former position if selected.
“We’d be looking at the middle to the end of March regarding a start date, according to this schedule, if we can keep to it,” she told the council.
Edmonds commented when Former City Administrator Robert Barbian was hired, four citizens attended interview sessions, but did not ask questions.
“I would recommend if that same process is used by the new process, two people who should be involved are Princeton Public Utilities General Manager Keith Butcher and Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Young,” Edmonds suggested.
Edmonds added the entire council participated in Barbian’s hiring process.
Reynolds said he didn’t have an issue with citizen input. Gerold also suggested a Princeton School Board or district representative. She added the hiring committee discussion could be tabled and talked about at a later date.
Schumacher then made a motion to table that decision until the council’s Jan. 7, 2021 meeting. Council members approved Schumacher’s motion 4-0. Edmonds then asked Schumacher if the council could return to the approved organizational chart.
“I believe that action that we took regarding public works and the wastewater treatment plant manager involves a conflict of interest,” Edmonds said, adding the action directly reflected upon Public Works Director Bob Gerold.
Councilor Jenny Gerold asked Edmonds what he was implying. “Are you stating that a conflict of interest would benefit me financially and personally?” she asked.
Edmonds stated Gerold would benefit because she is married to the public works director, who would be gaining additional supervisory duties as reflected in the revised organizational chart approved on Dec. 29.
Schumacher immediately consulted City Attorney Damien Toven, who had his hand raised to speak.
“I don’t feel like I need to make much of a comment,” Toven said. “Councilor Gerold’s response was on point regarding what would be considered a conflict of interest. I don’t see a personal or financial gain here.”
Gerold added: “This isn’t any different than me approving the purchase of a road grader for the public works department. It doesn’t benefit me financially,” she said.
Edmonds replied he made the statement as a matter of public record.
“There was no discussion of the public works director getting a promotion by taking back the wastewater treatment plant,” Gerold fired back.
Schumacher then jumped in with a point of clarification.
“We did not purchase a road grader,” he explained. “That’s already in our capital improvement plan. Mr. Edmonds’ conversation is duly noted, and Miss Gerold’s response is duly noted, and the city attorney’s response regarding the entire process is noted.”
No additional comments were made, and the meeting adjourned minutes later.